By: Saba Gharagozli
I will attempt to persuade you why we should tell stories by sharing a personal and critical analysis of the many experiences I have had with storytelling.
Fiction has a way of stimulating and engaging us on a psychological level and teaching us how to feel empathy in a way we never could ,otherwise. Fiction takes us on adventures, forcing us to look outside of ourselves and discover new worlds. Stories of any kind, fiction or nonfiction , are a means to learn and experience other cultures or lives ,outside of our own, that we ,otherwise, would never have had the opportunity to understand.
Poets and writers of extraordinary ability are often able to redefine their nations’ identities and cultures through exceptionally well-written works. Many epics, mythological tales and even historical literary works showcase societies in a way that was never seen before.
One of my favourite writers is Firdausi , the poet who wrote the Book of Kings (Shahnameh). In the foreword of the English translation of this epic, sAzar Nafisi, another great Persian writer, wrote: :
“My father always insisted that Persians basically did not have a home, except in their literature, especially in their poetry. This country, our country, he would say, has been attacked and invaded numerous times, and each time, when Persians had lost their sense of their own history, culture and language, they found their poets as the true guardians of their true home.
We have no other home but this, he would say, pointing to the invisible book. This, he would repeat, is our home, always. For you, and your brother, and your children, and your children’s children.”
Long ago, the king had assigned the poet to write this epic, promising to pay him one gold coin for every couplet he wrote. The king, as it seems to be the way with many rulers, did not fulfill his promise. He sent the poet silver coins ,in place of the gold ones, which the poet, despite his dire poverty, refused . The king, who finally realized the true worth of the poet, repented his unseemly behaviour and mistreatment of the poet and decided to travel to the city where the poet resided,in order -to console him himself. Upon arrival, the King realized he was too late ; as his procession entered the main gate to the city ,it encountered another procession-with the poet’s coffin- leaving from the same gate .
This is extremely profound, and I wanted to share this epic’s origin story, in order to effectively make you understand the significance of it. Relaying a story is far more important than explaining, with facts or science, how stories benefit our brains.
Nafisi goes on to say, “Implied in this legend, as in the Book of Kings itself, is the truth that in the struggle between the poet and the king, the latter might win this world but to the former belongs the glory that comes with the conquest of that most absolute of all tyrants- time. Nearly a thousand years have passed, and we remember the king mainly because we remember the poet. It is the poet, who is the final victor.”
Many people say that our time on earth is short, but I’ve always believed it to be terrifyingly and overwhelmingly long. Stories are like having the ability to weave our time together, to make sense of it all. Without them, we are easily lost and forgotten, suspended in limbo, and insignificant. Everything and everyone eventually becomes obsolete, but literature is the golden thread that transcends time and always persists. It is the only thing that will remain of us; it is the evidence that we were alive, that we lived and we loved, and that we mattered. This is why we should tell stories.